Humans versus computers

During my working hours I often find myself either giving 'orders' to a computer, or 'instructions'/'requests' to a human. Here are some similarities and some differences that I encountered.

When something goes wrong, usually the person giving the order (in other words: me) is at least partly to blame. If the instructions are not clear enough you will not get the right result. When designing a program it will just give you a compile error if you make a mistake, but you will never find out until the end if a person misunderstood you, unless you check, doublecheck and triplecheck what he's doing. Incidentally, this completely defeats the purpose of asking other people to do work for you anyway, since you're asking them so you can spend your valuable time on something else instead. Correctly defining a set of instructions for humans and getting the desired output is a lot more difficult than writing a program.

Summary. Computers are consistent. Writing a script to do something will always give you the same output, and after you've fixed all the errors in it, it will always work in the same way, and never make mistakes. Humans are unreliable. Ask them to do something in an unclear way, and they won't complain and give you an output that is not what you wanted at all. It costs time to explain it correctly. Time that could have been used to teach yourself something and write a program that could do it more efficiently than a human ever could.

So is there no advantage of man over machine at all? Of course not. Humans have their uses. When a task can only be defined in vague terms you will need a human to ask the right questions to define it, and to perform it. Humans can 'figure things out' by themselves.  The more competent the person, the more vague your instructions can be while still getting the result that you want. Some people are great at this. They only need one sentence before they get to work, and they will get you exactly what you want at the end of the week. Other people require exact instructions and still manage to screw it up, but that all depends on the skills of the individual. If you are working with highly skilled individuals, you can delegate. If you're not, it's better to write a script.

I guess I prefer working with computers over working with people after all...

Posted in Daily Life , Tech